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HomeNewsPoliticsSen. Lindsey Graham Gives Surprisingly Specific Presidential Announcement

Sen. Lindsey Graham Gives Surprisingly Specific Presidential Announcement


Whether you support his policies or not, Sen. Graham’s speech was honest and specific


Senator Lindsey Graham announces his presidential campaign in Central, S.C., on June 1, 2015.

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham formally became the ninth Republican candidate to announce a 2016 presidential campaign, leaning heavily on foreign policy.

“I’m running for president of the United States,” Graham said. “I intend to be president not of a single party, but of a nation. I want to do more than make big government smaller. I want to help make a great nation greater.”

Graham made his announcement in the small town of Central, South Carolina, where he grew up. However, despite the inclusive rhetoric in the opening, he gave a largely hawkish speech focused heavily on national security and the troubling reality of current global affairs, particularly in the Middle East.

“I want to be president to defeat the enemies that are trying to kill us — not just penalize them or criticize them or contain them, but defeat them.”

Graham’s hawkish views stands in contrast to Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kty., who is also a presidential candidate but one who favors far more caution before using U.S. ground power in the region.

“I have concluded we will never enjoy a peaceful coexistence with radical Islam,” he said, adding that to defeat radical Islam, it will take more than military might.

“The most powerful weapon in our arsenal isn’t a gun,” Graham said. “The terrorists are selling a glorious death. We must sell a hopeful life.”

In an already-crowded GOP field, with at least 6 or 7 others seriously weighing a bid, it will be hard for Graham to stand out and raise the necessary money to fund a competitive campaign. He said prior to the campaign speech Monday that he would gracefully bow out of the race before the Palmetto State primary if he didn’t make a strong showing in either Iowa or New Hampshire.

To buck the trend, the undefeated senator will tout foreign policy credentials and argue they not only make him best suited to be commander-in-chief, but also make him best suited to defeat Hillary Clinton.

“I have more national security experience than any other candidate in this race. That includes you, Hillary,” quipped Graham.

A refreshingly honest and detail-specific message will play a big role in his strategy, including his somber warning that U.S. troops are likely to perish in the Middle East as part of his approach.

“I cannot promise you that the dangers they (military) face will be any less with me as president,” Graham said. “But I can promise you that they will have the leadership to win. I can promise you their sacrifices won’t be wasted and they won’t fight with their hands tied behind their backs.”

While such posturing plays well in the Palmetto State, Graham isn’t the only hawkish candidate making this case. In fact, an already-declared candidate is making a serious play in the state and has put together an organization far superior.

As National Journal recently reported, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has put together a state team second to none. Several of the state’s most prominent and politically active businessmen have made it known they will support Rubio, including Chalmers Carr, president and CEO of Titan Farms; Dan Adams, president and CEO of the Capital Corporation; Hank Scott, CEO of Collum’s Lumber Products; and, most notably, Mikee Johnson, president and CEO of Cox Industries, who is chairman of the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce.

“Senator Rubio has put together a first-class team,” says Matt Moore, chairman of the South Carolina GOP. “Politics is all about institutional knowledge, and Senator Rubio’s team has decades if not centuries of institutional knowledge in South Carolina politics. … They understand what motivates voters, how races have been won here in the past, and how races might be won here in the future.”

Graham hasn’t led in a primary poll in his home state since February, but was also omitted from several. As of this week, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker leads in the PPD average of South Carolina GOP primary polls by a single point, though the last poll had Graham slightly behind Walker and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Graham is not only the ninth person to enter the race, but also the first with a military record. Last week, he announced he would retire from the reserves as he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 60 this summer, ending a military career as a JAG that began in 1982 in the United States Air Force.

Written by

Rich, the People's Pundit, is the Data Journalism Editor at PPD and Director of the PPD Election Projection Model. He is also the Director of Big Data Poll, and author of "Our Virtuous Republic: The Forgotten Clause in the American Social Contract."

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